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Combatting the drug epidemic

Saving our children through education
October 11, 2018

Saying there is a drug epidemic in Delaware is not an exaggeration. Calling it a crisis is not sensationalism.
Anyone who doubts this should speak to any one of the hundreds of people in our state who have lost loved ones to overdose deaths.
How widespread is the problem? Does it just involve fentanyl, the deadliest of the drugs?
Certainly the problem we want to solve first is the one that is taking most of the lives. But the use of other drugs is also having a devastating impact on individuals, families and businesses.
A few months ago I was at a meeting at Legislative Hall on a Saturday. At the meeting were pastors and business leaders concerned about a number of issues, including the widespread use of drugs.
One construction business owner from New Castle County shared that he recently had 51 job applicants. He said 49 failed the drug test. The two that were hired were later fired when they failed a random drug test.

The battle against drugs is being attacked by increasing public awareness of the problem, and through drug prevention programs and treatment programs. 
• Delaware is joining the effort to build awareness of the problem of illegal drugs through what is being called, the "Project Purple Initiative."
• In June a Senate Concurrent Resolution passed to create the Delaware Youth Drug Prevention Curriculum Task Force to reduce the risks that youth will experiment with drugs.
• Delmarva Teen Challenge has been running a recovery program for men since 2008. A similar facility for women will be opening this fall.

Earlier this month I attended the Western Sussex County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at the new location on US 13, south of Seaford. 
 At this event Peggy Geisler, director of the Sussex County Health Coalition, spoke about the "Project Purple Initiative" done in concert with the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Highmark and local hospitals.
Rob and Lynn Harman of Seaford presented Geisler with a check to help fund the initiative and encouraged other businesses and individuals to help with funding.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Crossroad Community Church, Georgetown, NBA basketball player Chris Herren helped launch the "Sussex Goes Purple" campaign. 
The following day, Herren told students at Seaford schools how drugs ruined his career.

In June a Senate Concurrent Resolution that I authored passed in the House and Senate to create the Delaware Youth Drug Prevention Curriculum Task Force. Work on the Task Force started on September 10 at Legislative Hall. 
The purpose of the Task Force is to recommend a course of action to educate our youth about the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use to reduce the chances that they will experiment with these substances.
For months I had been gathering information about what our state is doing to combat the drug addiction problem. The more I learned, the more I realized that the best way to fight the problem is through drug prevention programs. 
During the Joint Finance Committee hearings in February there was mention of a drug prevention pilot program in the Delaware middle schools. Known as the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum, the pilot was introduced this year in four districts: Red Clay, Capital, Seaford and Indian River.
I also learned from Tony Windsor in his role with the Boys & Girls Clubs that the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum has been a part of their programs for years.
What I learned about Botvin LifeSkills Training leads me to believe that this curriculum is the best approach. The role of the task force will be to find out if this is true and recommend a course of action.
The Task Force will submit a report to all members of the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2018. Then it will be up to our state government to act on those recommendations. 
We wouldn't fight a forest fire with a garden hose. The drug epidemic is raging and we need to direct every available resource to stop its spread. 
Our young people deserve our best efforts.

In my research for information on drug treatment programs in Delaware, I found out there are 67 such facilities, some private and some supported by taxpayers.
I wanted the information in order to quantify the savings potential that would come from drug prevention programs. 
Without a doubt, efforts to keep our young people off of drugs is much better than focusing on rehabilitation.
American statesman Frederick Douglass said, "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
The sad fact is that too many men and women have been broken.

Delmarva Teen Challenge has been running a recovery program for men since 2008. More than 200 have been set free from addiction to drugs and alcohol through the program.
Years ago, Delmarva Teen Challenge executive director Bob Carey said he was inspired to look into starting a recovery facility for women after receiving a number of inquiries about where women could go for help.
Carey's vision for such a facility is now a reality with the opening this fall of the Home of Hope complex off Rifle Range Road near Bridgeville. 
Home of Hope contains a pair of two-story dormitories, a sanctuary and an administrative office with classrooms. It provides up to 35 beds for women, whose children under the age of six may accompany them. 

John Hollis worked with me and other legislators to push for funding for the first year of operation. I was pleased to be able to collaborate with other members of the Joint Finance Committee to obtain $300,000 through grant-in-aid to help the facility open. 
While the funding from the state is important, the efforts of the dozens of contractors, many of whom donated time and materials, is what made completion of the project so special. This was a remarkable community endeavor with people giving of their time and talent to help others.
We are fortunate to live in an area where compassionate people are willing to provide this second chance.

From the awareness campaign of Project Purple to the Delaware Youth Drug Prevention Curriculum Task Force to treatment programs such as Delmarva Teen Challenge, including the Home of Hope, Delawareans are doing what they can to fight the drug epidemic. 
I encourage everyone to get involved in this fight.

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